Monday, March 28, 2005

Gay marriage vs. same-sex marriage

The Lawrence Journal-World on March 28 included two front-page articles concerning the amendment on same-sex marriage that voters will consider on April 5. The first article includes the headline "Gay marriage ban poses unintended consequences ," while the second article begins, "When Bruce Ney of Lawrence was told that the Knights of Columbus dropped $100,000 into the Kansas campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage...."

These articles use the term "gay marriage," while the language of the proposed amendment makes no mention at all concerning sexual orientation. According to the proposed amendment, "The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void. No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage."

According to this language a gay man could not marry a gay man. However, a straight man would also be prohibited from marrying another straight man. In addition, as Wikipedia notes, "In a few U.S. states, bans on same-sex marriage have voided marriages of otherwise-heterosexual couples because genetically they were of the same gender either as the result of intersex status or a previous sex reassignment surgery of one of the spouses."

While many journalists and readers might consider gay marriage and same-sex marriage to be the same thing, they are different. If newspapers want to be as accurate as possible, they should use the latter term when referring to the proposed amendment.